The box lunches at Scott Stadium today were filled with tangerines instead of the customary apples, symbolic of Virginia's bowl hopes against North Carolina.
But North Carolina's superb defense and some critical Virginia mistakes squelched the Cavalier bid for their first bowl appearance, The 13-7 North Carolina victory earned the Tar Heels a date against Michigan in the Gator Bowl Dec. 28.
Virginia played more than a quarter without quarterback Todd Kirtley, who was speared in the back late in the first half. He returned -- in pain -- early in the fourth quarter when backups Gordie Whitehead and Ted Manly were unable to move the Cavs.
Both coaches said it was the best their defenses ever had played.
North Carolina turned three of five Virginia turnovers into an eight-yard touchdown pass from Matt Kupec to Mike Chatham and 47- and 45-yard field goals by Jeff Hayes. The second three-pointer gave the Tar Heels a 13-0 lead midway in the third quarter.
Virginia, which went into the game planning to pick on North Carolina's suspect cornerbacks, completed only four of 24 passes, including a 70-yarder from Kirtley to running back Greg Taylor with 2:57 to play.
The Cavaliers had two late opportunities for a shot at victory. First they recovered an onside kick only to have officials rule that Chuck Kelly's perfect squib had touched a Virginia player before it went the necessary 10 yards.
The kick came from the North Carolina 40 because of a personal foul against North Carolina for unsportsmanlike conduct. Louis Collins recovered for Virginia. There was a flag on the onside kickoff too. Virginia was offside.
"That's another one of the penalties that cost us," said Virginia Coach Dick Bestwick. I'm sure we were offside. But if we didn't have the penalty, the difference would have been that we could have kicked it over."
Instead, Carolina took over and Virginia stopped three rushing plays for a total of four yards, setting up the eighth punt of the game by Steve Streater, who averaged 46 yards on his first seven.
There was 2:03 remaining and Virginia would have enough time to have a decent shot at pulling out its seventh victory in 10 games. Bestwick ordered an all-out attempt at blocking the punt.
Streater got the ball off and Virginia defensive end Steve Potter's thigh caught Streater's foot. Without hesitation, referee James Knight tossed his flag for roughing the kicker. A Carolina player and an assistant coach helped carry Streater off the field.
Bestwick said the scene was an "act." Remembering an earlier call in which Knight ruled a Virginia blocker had deflected a rusher into Cavs' punter Ford Mays, he said his hit was not as bad as the one on Mays.
"I'm not going to deny it," said Potter, a stalwart Virginia defender and starter for four years. "Anytime you make contact it's roughing. His foot was just ticked by my thigh."
Carolina ran three more plays and North Carolina Coach Dick Crum sent Hayes in to punt. When Virginia took over, there were only 15 seconds remaining. Kirtley managed three passes, two incomplete, the last intercepted by Carolina's Ricky Barden as time expired.
"He (Potter) got me here," Streater said, pointing to an area just below his right knee. "Yes, it still hurts, but I still don't think they would have scored. Our defense would have held them off."
Indeed, that was true throughout this sunny, windy afternoon for a game that attracted 31,472 fans. The Tar Heels, led by Barden and linebackers Buddy Curry and Darrell Nicholson, gave Virginia few opportunities. Virginia's best field position in its first six possessions was at it 20. Twice the Cavs started inside the five, once at the one following a goal-line stand in the second period.
Three Virginia mistakes were typical:
On Virginia's second series, Kirtley completed a 35-yard pass to Taylor at midfield. But the play was called back by illegal motion against Taylor. The cavs punted two plays later.
Late in the first half, Virginia defensive end Kelvin Anderson intercepted a Kuper screen pass and returned it 59 yards, to the North Carolina 12 with 43 seconds left. On the next play Whitehead fumbled and Calvin Daniels recovered for UNC.
Early in the fourth quarter, Virginia's Mike Brancati recovered an Amos Lawrence fumble at the UNC 28. Helped by a personal foul, the Cavs had third and nine at the 11, when Kirtley came back.
He overthrew his first pass and Barden, on a safety biltz, creamed him as he threw on fourth down. Another fourth-down pass in the quarter, from the UNC 21 following another Lawrence fumble, also was badly thrown.
"I was hurting," Kirtley said. "The coaches asked me to go back in."
Carolina's Lawrence, who has been injured, gained more than 100 yards for the first time in six weeks, getting 123 on 30 carries. It was the junior's 15th college game of 100 yards or more.
Another player hurting was Kupec, who was yanked by Crum after two series but came back before halftime. His touchdown pass tied an Atlantic Coast Conference record at 17 touchdown passes in one season. He came back in the second quarter but he was upset.
"I just feel I deserve more than that," he said. "I feel like a second-string quarterback -- two series of the first half and then coming out." sKuper said, "I still don't understand it; I can't understand it.
"I'm embarassed. I'm humiliated . . . If he doesn't know how I feel, he'll read it in the papers."
Both Crum and Kupec acknowledged that the game plan was to use two quarterbacks, especially if the Tar Heels did not move the ball and needed an option quarterback.
"We had field position early and were lethargic," Crum said. "All week long we talked to Matt that (Chuck Sharpe replacing him) was part of the game plan. I wasn't trying to humiliate him. I can't understand why he feels that way."